The House Made A Terribly Tone-Deaf Decision

Legislators on Capitol Hill have reached a new low. The U.S. House of Representatives managed to pass a bill on Friday that would cut government funding to Planned Parenthood, and although it was largely considered a show vote that would die in on the Senate floor, the decision was particularly tone-deaf for several reasons. In voting to defund Planned Parenthood, the House showed that it was willing to not only ignore the facts at hand (specifically the fact that none of the taxpayer funding distributed to the nonprofit was ever actually funneled to abortion procedures), but lawmakers once again proved that they were more than happy to ignore the voices of millions of women as well.

“There were over 4 million visits to Planned Parenthood clinics last year, and over 90 percent of this was basic women's health care, and not abortions,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado), arguing against the measure on the House Floor on Friday. “Yet the majority will take the radical step of denying women of the basic health care they need … [that’s] wrong for American women, and it's wrong for us, when the federal budget expires in just 13 days.”

Aside from the fact that Planned Parenthood has willingly and openly discussed how it allocates its budget before, the source of the most recent outcry, a series of videos which allegedly showed Planned Parenthood top brass discussing the supposed “sale” of fetal tissue for cash, has also been dismissed by investigators who confirmed that Planned Parenthood was acting legally.

That hasn’t stopped legislators within the pro-life crowd from coming up with shady arguments to the contrary.

“Most people think that [defunding Planned Parenthood] is common sense,” said bill sponsor Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee), during Friday’s House debate, according to The Washington Post. “If there is reason to investigate, then there is reason to withhold taxpayer dollars during that period of time, [because] the American taxpayer has been clear for a very long time that they do not want federal funds spent on abortion.”

Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, however, vehemently disagreed, blasting Black’s bill and calling it “dumb”, “foolish”, and “mean-spirited.”

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“I want to say this as respectfully as possible,” said Frankel during Friday’s House skirmish. “... The bill is based upon lies and exaggerations — if you want to have a truthful debate, then let’s talk about the 400,000 Pap smears, the 500,000 breast exams, the 4.5 million STD and HIV tests that Planned Parenthood does each year.”

Compounding the fact that the House was essentially ignoring a large section of the population are the statistics themselves. Although, as a whole, the United States is evenly divided on the issue of abortion, the majority of women consider themselves pro-choice by a margin of around 9 percentage points, according to a May 2014 Gallup Poll. Even if it’s not a huge gap, it still means that most women are likely to support organizations like Planned Parenthood, which offers a bevy of other health services in addition to the relatively low number of abortions they provide each year (according to public figures, the nonprofit’s abortion services make up just 3 percent of the group’s 10.6 million-strong annual service count each year). And in a nation where the majority rules, shouldn't, well... the majority actually rule?

What makes Friday’s predominantly partisan vote even worse is the sheer arrogance of those legislators on the right who seem to think that they are, in fact, doing Americans everywhere a favor.

“Taxpayers should not be forced to financially support organizations whose behavior is at best unethical and possibly illegal,” said bill co-sponsor, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida) during Friday’s debate. “This is about protecting the rights of taxpayers — but more importantly, protecting the basic right of human life.”

If Republicans like Bilirakis are as worried about human life as they claim to be, then perhaps they should invest a little more time and integrity into their own legislative agenda than they currently do and vote honestly, even when their peers decide otherwise — with millions of American women counting on services offered by Planned Parenthood each year, it couldn't hurt.